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A caterpillar in pork chops and a snail in a whole chicken: Last year was a busy one for the food safety authority

The FSAI received almost 3,500 complaints in 2019.

Image: Shutterstock/Mikyrossy

THE FOOD SAFETY Authority of Ireland (FSAI) received almost 3,500 complaints from consumers last year to its advice line, half of which related to unfit food and poor hygiene standards, new figures released today reveal. 

The FSAI last year saw a significant increase (25%) in complaints relating to the non-display of allergen information while poor hygiene complaints rose by 19%. 

Complaints relating to suspected food poisoning also saw an increase of 8% in 2019. 

The total number of complaints to the FSAI in 2019 saw a small increase overall compared with 2018 (3,424). 

Last year, consumer complaints ranged from reports of food unfit to eat to incorrect food labelling information:

  • 1,134 complaints on hygiene standards
  • 1,082 complaints on unfit food
  • 792 complaints on suspect food poisoning
  • 149 complaints on incorrect information on food labelling
  • 135 complaints on non-display of allergen information
  • 113 other

In addition, the FSAI noted an increase in the number of complaints from customers in relation to inadequate pest control in food premises which it said has also been reflected in FSAI Enforcement Orders. 

Under the FSAI Act 1998, a closure order is served where it is deemed that there is or there is likely to be a grave and immediate danger to public health at or in the premises; or where an improvement order is not complied with.

Closure orders can refer to the immediate closure of all or part of the food premises, or all or some of its activities, but can be lifted once a food premises is found to be compliant.

Recent closures have included a Dublin restaurant where inspectors found “evidence of rodent activity”

Contamination of food with foreign objects was frequently reported by consumers in 2019. 

Reports included allegations of food containing insects, plastics and other foreign objects.

Hair was reported several times as being present in a number of foods, the FSAI said today, as well as false nails, small pieces of stone, metal and plastic.

Other reports to the FSAI included a snail in a whole chicken; a caterpillar in pork chops; and a butterfly or moth in fresh cream.

Advice line complaints regarding poor hygiene in food premises, meanwhile, cited live mice and evidence of rodent activity throughout food handling and storage areas; staff failing to wash their hands when cooking and serving food; pigeons in the deli area; and flies reported throughout a premises.

In 2019, the FSAI recorded a total of 8,964 queries from people working in the food service sector. 

Queries regarding legislation on food labelling requirements, requests for FSAI publications and information for new food businesses setting up operations were amongst the most common. 

FSAI Chief Executive Pamela Byrne said that the FSAI has now added a pest control FAQ to its website given the increase in complaints in 2019. 

“Pest control is critical because pests can carry harmful bacteria that can contaminate foods. This can cause illness or spoil food. Pests can also cause financial damage to food businesses and affect their reputation,” said Byrne. 

She added: “The figures from last year show that consumers too are becoming increasingly attentive as to how food establishments are expected to operate in terms of food safety in Ireland.

“By reporting their incidents around hygiene, labelling, food safety practices and pest control, members of the public and people working in the food sector provide us with the information we need to do our work effectively.”

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